Open letters to U of T re COVID-19 vaccine mandates

August 6, 2021

From: Concerned University of Toronto Student Group
Represented by Benjamin Gabbay
[email protected]

To: Prof. Meric Gertler, President
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Cc: Prof. Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Ellie Hisama, Dean
University of Toronto Faculty of Music
[email protected]

Prof. Trevor Young, Acting Vice-President & Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Beth Ali, Exec. Director of Athletics & Physical Activity
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Ryan McClelland, Associate Dean
University of Toronto Faculty of Music
[email protected]

Re: U of T to require vaccination for high-risk activities, self-declaration of vaccination status

We are a group of returning undergraduate and graduate University of Toronto students from various faculties and fields of study. We are writing this letter in response to the university’s recent announcement of its intention to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for students participating in certain “high-risk” in-person activities, including Varsity sports, music performance, and educational placements.[1]

We believe that a student’s medical history and medical decisions should not be the basis for differential treatment by an academic institution. Students should not be required to disclose their medical history or wear it like a badge of honour or shame — through differential treatment or other means — for their fellow students and faculty members to see and judge. In addition, requiring a student to disclose private medical information may be in violation of Ontario’s Personal Health Information Protection Act.[2]

It is typically argued that such privacy violations and medical mandates are justified by the unusually high risk posed by COVID-19; however, this justification falls apart when examining the assumptions that underpin it. We would like to address the following points specifically:

Special COVID advisor Prof. Sal Spadafora states that COVID vaccines “provide the best protection from COVID-19.” This disregards a substantial body of evidence indicating that natural immunity obtained through prior infection with SARS-CoV-2 provides a robust immune defense against reinfection with SARS-CoV-2[3][4] that, in many cases, has proven to be superior to the intended effect of current COVID vaccines.[5][6][7] Studies have even demonstrated that a significant number of people who have never come in contact with SARS-CoV-2 possess memory-type, cross-reactive immunity from prior exposure to similar viruses.[8][9][10][11] In addition, some experts have warned about the possibility that individuals with pre-existing antibody immunity face an increased risk of severe adverse reaction following vaccination,[12] and a recent study of over 2,000 vaccinated individuals has confirmed this.[13] For these reasons, the blanket imposition of COVID vaccination that does not provide even a theoretical benefit to many individuals is unscientific, and, as further discussed below, is not without serious risk.

Prof. Spadafora also states that “you can’t spread what you aren’t infected with,” referring to the supposed effectiveness of COVID vaccination in preventing infection and transmission. However, the COVID vaccines currently in use cannot provide sterilizing immunity[14] or mucosal immunity (a critical defense mechanism against infection with respiratory viruses[15]), and therefore cannot prevent infection or transmission. Recent data from the U.S. CDC in relation to the now-dominant Delta strain even indicates that vaccinated individuals are likely to carry the same viral load as unvaccinated individuals, even if they have less severe COVID-19 symptoms.[16] With these facts considered, it becomes clear that COVID vaccine mandates and coercion make no medical sense — the pursuit of a 100% vaccination policy demonstrates no measurable benefit that would justify the violation of students’ rights to medical privacy and bodily autonomy.

The most crucial question that must be answered when considering the introduction of extraordinary, overreaching medical mandates is: In the given demographic, does the benefit to the collective sufficiently outweigh the risk to the individual? We have already discussed the inability of COVID vaccines to prevent infection and transmission (establishing the fallacy of vaccinating yourself for someone else’s sake); this must now be placed in the context of the university student demographic. We know from more than a year of accumulated data that the risk of mortality posed by SARS-CoV-2 infection in the overall population is approximately 0.15%, or 1 in 667.[17] We also know that this mortality rate is heavily skewed towards the elderly with pre-existing illness,[18][19] so much so that it conforms to the curve of natural mortality.[20] As such, the absolute risk posed by COVID-19 to individuals between the ages of 20–29 remains extremely low (in Canada, people in this demographic account for only 0.2% of all 26,592 deaths both with and from COVID to date[21]), and it has repeatedly been demonstrated that the risk of COVID-19 to those under the age of 19 is almost nil.[22][23][24],[25] A March 2021 estimation by the CDC placed the current IFR (infection fatality rate) of COVID in the USA for the 18–49 age bracket between 500 and 1,700 fatalities per 1,000,000 infections, or between 0.05% and 0.17%,[26] approximately five to eighteen times lower than the lifetime risk of death by a motor vehicle accident.[27]

With such a low absolute threat, any measure that seeks to benefit the young adult demographic should be demonstrated to have a near-absolute absence of serious risk. Unfortunately, the current data and warning signs indicate that this is not the case. It is well accepted by Health Canada, the U.S. FDA, and the European Medical Association that myocarditis and pericarditis (serious heart inflammation disorders), specifically in young adults, are among the severe adverse events attributable to mRNA COVID vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna,[28][29][30][31] just as instances of the neurological disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome,[32][33][34] capillary leak syndrome,[35] and blood clotting[36][37][38] were attributed to AstraZeneca’s and Johnson & Johnson’s adenovirus-vector COVID vaccines before their use was either restricted or suspended in several countries.[39] Risks of thrombotic events and blood clotting have also been attributed to mRNA COVID vaccines,[40],[41] and additional serious adverse events, such as heart attacks[42] and miscarriages[43] (spontaneous abortion) in pregnant women, have also been reported.

The usual reason that concerns about adverse side effects are disregarded is that they are considered rare and proportionately minute compared to the risk of COVID-19, but this reasoning cannot be applied in the context of the young adult population. Unlike the risk of COVID-19, risk of adverse reactions to COVID vaccination is much more evenly distributed across age groups,[44][45] and the bare statistical rate of serious adverse events following COVID vaccination in Canada (0.006% according to Canada’s Adverse Events Following Immunization reporting system, AEFI[46]) is already six times higher than the statistical risk of COVID-19 mortality in healthy young adults in Canada (an average of 0.001% as estimated by Stanford epidemiologist John Ioannidis[47]). Considering that adverse reactions to vaccination are historically severely underreported,[48] the rate of injury could be significantly higher.

The risk-benefit ratio of mass COVID vaccination is therefore highly disproportionate in the young adult demographic. We see a clear example of this disproportionality in the recent report from Nova Scotia of 22 cases of myocarditis occurring post vaccination in individuals aged 20–30,[49] where only one of the province’s 93 total COVID mortalities was under the age of 50, and no deaths from COVID occurred under the age of 37.[50] For many of the reasons discussed above, multiple experts, including Harvard epidemiologist Prof. Dr. Martin Kulldorff, Stanford medical professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, UCI Medical Ethics Program Director Prof. Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, and the President of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. Paul M. Kempen, have all denounced university vaccine mandates as being “misguided” and “dangerous for public health” (Kulldorff and Bhattacharya),[51] “unprecedented and unethical” (Kheriaty),[52] and “contrary to the bedrock medical principle of informed consent” (Kempen).[53]

The risk-benefit ratio in young adults becomes even more concerning when compounded with the fact that current COVID vaccines have only been in trial for a year or less (compared to the 5- to 10-year minimum in historical vaccine development[54]), do not yet have full approval by Health Canada (they are authorized for use under an emergency interim order[55]), and simply do not have long-term safety data. Proponents of COVID vaccination in children and young adults have been quick to discount any possibility of long-term harm with the notion that nothing about the mechanism of current COVID vaccines suggests the possibility of long-term harm — however, even if we disregard the reckless confidence of this rationale, which has been repeatedly countered,[56][57][58] it is also dangerously untrue. Several clear hypotheses for the mechanisms of harm of spike-protein mRNA (the active component of current mRNA COVID vaccines) have been posited by leading experts in microbiology, immunology, and toxicology in an exchange of letters with the European Medical Association between February 28 and April 20, 2021.[59][60][61][62] The association’s first letter[63] accurately predicted the rise in thrombotic (blood-clotting) adverse events that was observed in the following months, and the group continues to raise concerns that the most commonly listed “mild” adverse events of mRNA COVID vaccines (e.g., piercing headache, impaired consciousness, fatigue, twitching) point to far more widespread occurrence of thrombosis (specifically CVST, cerebral venous sinus thrombosis) than previously estimated.[64] This has recently been corroborated by some highly concerning raw data produced by British Columbia physician Dr. Charles Hoffe, who reported elevated D-dimer levels in the blood of many of his patients post vaccination, including those who displayed no obvious adverse reactions.[65] (“D-dimers” are protein fragments produced by the body in the formation and dissolution of blood clots.[66]) Widespread occurrence of elevated D-dimer levels in recently vaccinated individuals suggests that blood clotting may be taking place at a microscopic scale even in those who display few or no symptoms post vaccination, and introduces serious new concerns about long-term safety and the mechanism of spike-protein mRNA vaccines as a whole. Until such time as each of these concerns has been thoroughly investigated and assessed, the long-term risks of current COVID vaccines must be regarded as a dangerous unknown.

As this letter has made it clear that:

  • current COVID vaccines do not prevent transmission;
  • the risk of COVID-19 to the young adult population is statistically miniscule, and the risk-benefit ratio of the mass vaccination of young adults against COVID is utterly disproportionate;
  • long-term risks of COVID vaccination remain unknown, but serious warning signs are emerging; and
  • COVID vaccination mandates for young adults have been shunned and denounced by medical ethicists and world-leading experts in medicine and epidemiology;

we as concerned students feel that the university cannot use COVID-19 as a justification for the violation of students’ rights to medical privacy and bodily autonomy, and we request the immediate retraction by the university of its recently announced COVID vaccination mandates. We are not requesting special exemption from the mandate, as we maintain that the mandate itself is nonscientific, discriminatory, and unethical, and the process of seeking exemption inevitably involves the disclosure of additional private information to which the university has no right — we request full retraction.

If the university, along with all affected faculties, continues to uphold its mandate in spite of the demonstrated lack of scientific and ethical justification, we are left to assume that the university has chosen to put politics ahead of its students’ rights and well-being. We are aware that the university has already been put on legal notice by Children’s Health Defense Canada and the Constitutional Rights Centre,[67] as have Seneca College and Western University for their own mandates.[68][69] We urge the University of Toronto to uphold its values of equity and unity and repeal its mandates so that this battle will not need to be fought in court.

We would like to conclude with the words of Dr. Martin Kulldorff and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya from their incisive op-ed in The Hill:[70]

“Universities used to be bastions of enlightenment. Now many of them ignore basic benefit-risk analyses, a staple of the toolbox of scientists; they deny immunity from natural infection; they abandon the global international perspective for narrow nationalism; and they replace trust with coercion and authoritarianism. Mandating the COVID-19 vaccine thus threatens not only public health but also the future of science.”

Sincerely,

Benjamin Gabbay
Faculty of Music, MMus in Composition, second year

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, BMus in Jazz Performance, fourth year

[Name redacted]
Arts & Humanities, second year

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, BMus in Performance, fourth year

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, DMA in Composition, final year

[Name redacted]
BE; Faculty of Law, second year

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, BMus in Performance, second year

[Name redacted]
Computer Engineering, fourth year

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, BMus in Education, fourth year

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, BMus comprehensive, fourth year

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, BMus comprehensive, fourth year

[Name redacted]
BASc

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, DMA candidate

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, BMus in Music Performance, third year

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, BMus comprehensive, fourth year

[Name redacted]
BASc, third year

[Name redacted]
MASc, second year

[Name redacted]
Chemical Engineering

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, fourth year

Supporting signatories (alumni):

[Name redacted]
BMus, MT

[Name redacted]
BCom

[Name redacted]
BMus

[Name redacted]
Humanities

[Name redacted]
MMus Performance

[Name redacted]
Arts & Sciences

[Name redacted]
Arts & Sciences

Additional signatories, August 19 (students):

[Name redacted]
Arts & Sciences (UTM)

[Name redacted]
Department of Physical and Environmental Science, first year

[Name redacted]
BSc

Additional signatories, August 19 (alumni):

[Name redacted]
Arts & Sciences (UTM)

[Name redacted]
B.A., OISE

[Name redacted]
Centre for Medieval Studies

[Name redacted]
OISE

[1] “U of T to require vaccination for high-risk activities, self-declaration of vaccination status” University of Toronto, July 29, 2021. https://www.utoronto.ca/news/u-t-require-vaccination-high-risk-activities-self-declaration-vaccination-status. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[2] Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004, S.O. 2004, c. 3, Sched. A. (Online). Toronto: Legislative Assembly of Ontario, 2004. Available: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/04p03. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[3] Dan, Jennifer M et al. “Immunological memory to SARS-CoV-2 assessed for up to 8 months after infection.” Science (New York, N.Y.) vol. 371,6529 (2021): eabf4063. doi:10.1126/science.abf4063.

[4] Turner, Jackson S et al. “SARS-CoV-2 infection induces long-lived bone marrow plasma cells in humans.” Nature vol. 595,7867 (2021): 421–425. doi:10.1038/s41586–021–03647–4.

[5] Rosenberg, David. “Natural infection vs vaccination: Which gives more protection?” Israel National News, July 13, 2021. https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/309762. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[6] Goldberg, Yair et al. “Protection of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection is similar to that of BNT162b2 vaccine protection: A three-month nationwide experience from Israel.” medRxiv 2021.04.20.21255670; doi:10.1101/2021.04.20.21255670.

[7] Shrestha, Nabin K et al. “Necessity of COVID-19 vaccination in previously infected individuals.” medRxiv 2021.06.01.21258176; doi:10.1101/2021.06.01.21258176.

[8] Mahajan, Swapnil et al. “Immunodominant T-cell epitopes from the SARS-CoV-2 spike antigen reveal robust pre-existing T-cell immunity in unexposed individuals.” Scientific reports vol. 11,1 13164. 23 Jun. 2021, doi:10.1038/s41598–021–92521–4.

[9] Doshi P. “Covid-19: Do many people have pre-existing immunity?” BMJ 2020:m3563. doi:10.1136/bmj.m3563

[10] Cox, Rebecca J, and Karl A Brokstad. “Not just antibodies: B cells and T cells mediate immunity to COVID-19.” Nature reviews. Immunology vol. 20,10 (2020): 581–582. doi:10.1038/s41577–020–00436–4

[11] Bhakdi, Sucharit et al. “Letter to Physicians: Four New Scientific Discoveries Regarding COVID-19 Immunity and Vaccines — Implications for Safety and Efficacy.” Doctors for COVID Ethics, July 9, 2021. https://doctors4covidethics.org/letter-to-physicians-four-new-scientific-discoveries-crucial-to-the-safety-and-efficacy-of-covid-19-vaccines/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[12] Noorchashm, Hooman. “Urgent FDA Communication: J&J, Pfizer, Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Clotting Complications and the Naturally Immune.” Hooman Noorchashm, April 16, 2021. https://noorchashm.medium.com/urgent-fda-communication-j-j-pfizer-moderna-covid-19-vaccine-clotting-complications-and-the-e00382f8a8b. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[13] Mathioudakis, Alexander G et al. “Self-Reported Real-World Safety and Reactogenicity of COVID-19 Vaccines: A Vaccine Recipient Survey.” Life (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 11,3 249. 17 Mar. 2021, doi:10.3390/life11030249.

[14] Myhre, James et al. “Sterilizing Immunity and COVID-19 Vaccines.” Verywell Health, updated December 24, 2020. https://www.verywellhealth.com/covid-19-vaccines-and-sterilizing-immunity-5092148. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[15] Russell, Michael W et al. “Mucosal Immunity in COVID-19: A Neglected but Critical Aspect of SARS-CoV-2 Infection.” Frontiers in immunology vol. 11 611337. 30 Nov. 2020, doi:10.3389/fimmu.2020.611337.

[16] Brown, Catherine M et al. “Outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 Infections, Including COVID-19 Vaccine Breakthrough Infections, Associated with Large Public Gatherings — Barnstable County, Massachusetts.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2021;70:1059–1062, doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7031e2.

[17] Ioannidis, John P A. “Reconciling estimates of global spread and infection fatality rates of COVID-19: An overview of systematic evaluations.” European journal of clinical investigation vol. 51,5 (2021): e13554. doi:10.1111/eci.13554.

[18] “Risk for COVID-19 Infection, Hospitalization, and Death By Age Group.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated July 19, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/investigations-discovery/hospitalization-death-by-age.html. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[19] “See how age and illnesses change the risk of dying from covid-19.” The Economist, March 11, 2021. https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/covid-pandemic-mortality-risk-estimator. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[20] “Why Covid-19 Is a ‘Strange Pandemic.’” Swiss Policy Research, September 2020. https://swprs.org/why-covid-19-is-a-strange-pandemic/. Accessed July 5, 2021.

[21] “COVID-19 daily epidemiology update.” Government of Canada, August 18, 2021. https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/epidemiological-summary-covid-19-cases.html. Accessed 18 August 2021.

[22] Bhopal, Sunil S et al. “Children and young people remain at low risk of COVID-19 mortality.” The Lancet. Child & adolescent health vol. 5,5 (2021): e12-e13. doi:10.1016/S2352–4642(21)00066–3.

[23] “Covid: Children’s extremely low risk confirmed by study.” BBC News Services, July 9, 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-57766717. Accessed 5 July 2021.

[24] Webb, Nicole E et al. “Characteristics of Hospitalized Children Positive for SARS-CoV-2: Experience of a Large Center.” Hospital Pediatrics vol. 11,8 (2021): e133-e141. doi:10.1542/hpeds.2021–005919.

[25] Blakely, Rhys. “All children who died of Covid-19 were already seriously ill.” The Times, August 28, 2020. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/all-children-who-died-of-covid-19-were-already-seriously-ill-jlxr8mkxq. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[26] “COVID-19 Pandemic Planning Scenarios.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated March 19, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/planning-scenarios.html. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[27] “Odds of Dying.” National Safety Council, Injury facts, 2019. https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/all-injuries/preventable-death-overview/odds-of-dying/data-details/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[28] “Health Canada updates several COVID-19 vaccine labels with warnings about certain health risks.” CBC News, June 30, 2021. https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/health-canada-astrazeneca-capillary-leak-syndrome-1.6085674. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[29] “Myocarditis and Pericarditis Following mRNA COVID-19 Vaccination.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated June 23, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/myocarditis.html. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[30] “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: June 25, 2021.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, June 25 2021. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-june-25-2021. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[31] “COVID-19 vaccine safety update.” European Medicines Agency, July 14, 2021. https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/documents/covid-19-vaccine-safety-update/covid-19-vaccine-safety-update-comirnaty-14-july-2021_en.pdf. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[32] George, Judy. “FDA Warns About Post-COVID Vax Guillain-Barré Syndrome.” MedPage Today, July 12, 2021. https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19vaccine/93537. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[33] Lyons, Erin. “TGA probe into Guillain-Barre Syndrome diagnoses in eight patients after AstraZeneca vaccine.” Nationwide News, May 20, 2021. https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/health-problems/tga-probe-into-guillainbarre-syndrome-diagnoses-in-eight-patients-after-astrazeneca-vaccine/news-story/6b3036bdef7895446b02d300aee808b9. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[34] The Paul Erlich Institute found that GBS occurred “at an increased rate” in vaccinated patients. See: “Berichtszeitraum 27.12. bis 31.05.2021,” Paul-Erlich-Institut, June 10, 2021, https://www.pei.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/newsroom/dossiers/sicherheitsberichte/sicherheitsbericht-27-12-bis-31-05-21.pdf.

[35] “Health Canada issues label change on the AstraZeneca and COVISHIELD COVID-19 vaccines.” Healthy Canadians, Recalls and safety alerts, June 29, 2021. https://healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2021/75389a-eng.php. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[36] Campbell, Lucy. “Lisa Shaw death: BBC presenter had blood clots after AstraZeneca jab, family says.” The Guardian, May 27, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/may/27/bbc-presenter-lisa-shaw-died-of-blood-clot-after-astrazeneca-jab-family-says. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[37] Filetto, Giuseppe et al. “Camilla Canepa, the 18-year-old from Sestri Levante vaccinated with AstraZeneca, died. Investigation of the Public Prosecutor of Genoa for manslaughter.” la Repubblica, June 20, 2021. https://genova.repubblica.it/cronaca/2021/06/10/news/e_morta_camilla_canepa_la_18enne_ligure_vaccinata_con_astrazeneca-305366834/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[38] White, Debbie. “Man has leg amputated after suffering rare blood clot three weeks after first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine.” The Sun, June 18, 2021. https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/15320182/man-leg-amputated-blood-clot-three-weeks-astrazeneca-vaccine/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[39] “Factbox: Details of use of AstraZeneca, J&J COVID vaccines.” Reuters, April 20, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/some-countries-limit-astrazeneca-vaccine-use-eu-findings-jj-shot-expected-2021-04-20/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[40] “Reported side effects following COVID-19 vaccination in Canada.” Government of Canada, updated July 30, 2021. https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/vaccine-safety/#noteTTS. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[41] Lawrie, Tess. “Urgent preliminary report of Yellow Card data up to 26th May 2021.” The Evidence-Based Medicine Consultancy, June 9, 2021. https://b3d2650e-e929-4448-a527-4eeb59304c7f.filesusr.com/ugd/593c4f_b2acdef3774b4e9ca06e9fae526fd5cd.pdf. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[42] “Search results where vaccine target is COVID-19 and symptom is myocardial infarction.” National Vaccine Information Centerhttps://www.medalerts.org/vaersdb/findfield.php?EVENTS=on&PAGENO=1&PERPAGE=10&ESORT=&REVERSESORT=&VAX=(COVID19)&SYMPTOMS=(10028596). Accessed 5 August 2021.

[43] “Search results where vaccine target is COVID-19 and symptom is spontaneous abortion.” National Vaccine Information Centerhttps://www.medalerts.org/vaersdb/findfield.php?EVENTS=on&PAGENO=1&PERPAGE=10&ESORT=&REVERSESORT=&VAX=(COVID19)&SYMPTOMS=(10000234). Accessed 5 August 2021.

[44] “Search results where vaccine target is COVID-19 and symptom is serious.” National Vaccine Information Centerhttps://www.medalerts.org/vaersdb/findfield.php?EVENTS=on&PAGENO=1&PERPAGE=10&ESORT=&REVERSESORT=&VAX=(COVID19)&SERIOUS=ON. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[45] “Reported side effects following COVID-19 vaccination in Canada.” Government of Canada, July 30, 2021. https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/vaccine-safety/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ioannidis, John P A et al. “Population-level COVID-19 mortality risk for non-elderly individuals overall and for non-elderly individuals without underlying diseases in pandemic epicenters.” Environmental research vol. 188 (2020): 109890. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2020.109890

[48] Lazarus, Ross. “Electronic Support for Public Health–Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (ESP:VAERS).” Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, September 2010. https://digital.ahrq.gov/sites/default/files/docs/publication/r18hs017045-lazarus-final-report-2011.pdf. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[49] The Canadian Press. “N.S. reports 22 cases of heart inflammation following mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.” Toronto Star, July 23, 2021. https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2021/07/23/ns-reports-22-cases-of-heart-inflammation-following-mrna-covid-19-vaccines.html. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[50] Walton, Victoria et al. “Tracking all of Nova Scotia’s COVID deaths.” The Coast, May 25, 2021. https://www.thecoast.ca/halifax/tracking-all-of-nova-scotias-covid-deaths/Content?oid=26404463. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[51] Kulldorff, Martin et al. “The ill-advised push to vaccinate the young.” The Hill, June 17, 2021. https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/558757-the-ill-advised-push-to-vaccinate-the-young. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[52] Kheriaty, Aaron et al. “University Vaccine Mandates Violate Medical Ethics.” The Wall Street Journal, June 14, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/articles/university-vaccine-mandates-violate-medical-ethics-11623689220. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[53] Kempen, Paul M. “Open Letter from Physicians to Universities: Allow Students Back Without COVID Vaccine Mandate.” Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, April 24, 2021. https://aapsonline.org/open-letter-from-physicians-to-universities-reverse-covid-vaccine-mandates/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[54] Loprespub. “COVID-19 Vaccine Research and Development.” Library of Parliament, HillNotes, June 23, 2021. https://hillnotes.ca/2020/06/23/covid-19-vaccine-research-and-development/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[55] Interim Order Respecting the Importation, Sale and Advertising of Drugs for Use in Relation to COVID-19(Online) Ottawa: Health Canada, September 16, 2020. Available: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/covid19-industry/drugs-vaccines-treatments/interim-order-import-sale-advertising-drugs.html. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[56] Doshi, Peter. “Covid-19 vaccines: In the rush for regulatory approval, do we need more data?” BMJ 2021;373:n1244. doi:10.1136/bmj.n1244.

[57] Wastila, Linda et al. “Why we petitioned the FDA to refrain from fully approving any covid-19 vaccine this year.” The BMJ Opinion, June 8 2021. https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2021/06/08/why-we-petitioned-the-fda-to-refrain-from-fully-approving-any-covid-19-vaccine-this-year/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[58] Siri, Aaron. “Federal law prohibits employers and others from requiring vaccination with a Covid-19 vaccine distributed under an EUA.” STAT, Feb 23, 2021. https://www.statnews.com/2021/02/23/federal-law-prohibits-employers-and-others-from-requiring-vaccination-with-a-covid-19-vaccine-distributed-under-an-eua/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[59] Bhakti, Sucharit et al. “Urgent Open Letter from Doctors and Scientists to the European Medicines Agency regarding COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Concerns.” Doctors for Covid Ethics, March 10, 2021. https://doctors4covidethics.org/urgent-open-letter-from-doctors-and-scientists-to-the-european-medicines-agency-regarding-covid-19-vaccine-safety-concerns/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[60] Burgos, Juan Garcia. “Reply from the European Medicines Agency to Doctors for Covid Ethics, March 23, 2021.” Doctors for Covid Ethics, April 1, 2021. https://doctors4covidethics.org/reply-from-the-european-medicines-agency-to-doctors-for-covid-ethics-march-23-2021/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[61] Bhakti, Sucharit et al. “Rebuttal letter to European Medicines Agency from Doctors for Covid Ethics, April 1, 2021.” Doctors for Covid Ethics, April 1, 2021. https://doctors4covidethics.org/rebuttal-letter-to-european-medicines-agency-from-doctors-for-covid-ethics-april-1-2021/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[62] Bhakti, Sucharit et al. “Doctors and Scientists Write to the European Medicines Agency, Warning of COVID-19 Vaccine Dangers for a Third Time.” Doctors for Covid Ethics, April 24, 2021. https://doctors4covidethics.org/doctors-and-scientists-write-to-the-european-medicines-agency-warning-of-covid-19-vaccine-dangers-for-a-third-time/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[63] Bhakti, Sucharit et al. “Urgent Open Letter from Doctors and Scientists to the European Medicines Agency regarding COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Concerns.”

[64] Bhakti, Sucharit et al. “Doctors and Scientists Write to the European Medicines Agency, Warning of COVID-19 Vaccine Dangers for a Third Time.”

[65] “Doctors for Covid Ethics Symposium — Session 1.” Doctors for COVID Ethics, August 4, 2021. https://tube.doctors4covidethics.org/videos/watch/a288d316-9975-4673-a5bf-2f16ca5d7764, (02:03:30). Accessed 5 August 2021.

[66] “D-dimer.” Lab Tests Online, updated June 18, 2021. https://labtestsonline.org/tests/d-dimer. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[67] Sherazee, Amina. “Re: ‘Mandatory Vaccinations’ for Students in Residence.” Constitutional Rights Centre, July 31, 2021. https://www.constitutionalrightscentre.ca/20CRC16/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/CHDC-Letter-Ontario-UniversitiesColleges.pdf. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[68] Sherazee, Amina. “Re: ‘Mandatory Vaccinations’ for Students on-Campus.” Constitutional Rights Centre, July 24, 2021. https://childrenshealthdefense.ca/wp-content/uploads/CHDC-Ltr-Seneca-College.pdf. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[69] Sherazee, Amina. “Re: ‘Mandatory Vaccinations’ for Students in Residence.” Constitutional Rights Centre, July 21, 2021. https://childrenshealthdefense.ca/wp-content/uploads/CHDC-Ltr-Western-University.pdf. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[70] Kulldorff, Martin et al. “The ill-advised push to vaccinate the young.” The Hill, June 17, 2021. https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/558757-the-ill-advised-push-to-vaccinate-the-young. Accessed 5 August 2021.

August 19, 2021

From: Concerned University of Toronto Student Group
Represented by Benjamin Gabbay
[email protected]

To: Prof. Meric Gertler, President
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Cc: Prof. Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Ellie Hisama, Dean
University of Toronto Faculty of Music
[email protected]

Prof. Trevor Young, Acting Vice-President & Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Beth Ali, Exec. Director of Athletics & Physical Activity
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Ryan McClelland, Associate Dean
University of Toronto Faculty of Music
[email protected]

Follow-up: Joint letter from concerned U of T students

On August 6, 2021, our group sent a letter responding to the University of Toronto’s COVID vaccination mandates announced July 29,[1] in which we detailed our concerns regarding the ethicality and necessity of forcing students to disclose their private health information and outlined several reasons — referenced with peer-reviewed studies, expert opinions, and official government data — why such mandates have no basis in science. We are disappointed that, as of August 19, we have not received a response, or even an acknowledgement. However, on August 11, the university published another announcement[2] that simply reinforced the mandates laid out in its July 29 announcement. Although this new announcement is titled “The public health evidence is clear,” no scientific references are provided, and our concerns regarding the lack of justification for these mandates remain the same.

Prof. Spadafora, the Council of Ontario Universities, and Colleges Ontario cite “growing concerns about the Delta and other variants of COVID-19,” but do not explain how this necessitates mandatory COVID vaccination of the student population, given the public health data we are seeing worldwide. In addition to the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s data from July 30 indicating that vaccinated individuals are capable of carrying the same viral load of the Delta variant as unvaccinated individuals,[3] Public Health England has since come to the same conclusions,[4] and three of the world’s most vaccinated populations — Iceland (75%), Malta (92%), and Gibraltar (99%+)[5] — have all, within the past month, experienced their highest levels of COVID-19 prevalence since the beginning of the year.[6][7] If COVID-vaccinated individuals are just as capable of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 as the unvaccinated, widespread vaccination does not prevent outbreaks, and, as Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Professor Dr. Marty Makarty put it, “Those who are unvaccinated pose no risk to the vaccinated beyond that of a common cold,”[8] it remains apparent to us that the University of Toronto’s recent mandates are a political act with no basis in science, frivolously violating its students’ bodily autonomy and rights to medical privacy.

In addition to the COVID vaccine safety concerns raised in our original letter, we would also like to draw attention to two further important analyses that have since been published: a study by infectious disease expert Dr. George A. Diaz et al. in JAMA Cardiology[9] that found myocarditis and pericarditis (heart inflammation disorders) occurring post COVID vaccination at more than twice the rate originally estimated by the CDC, and a letter by Prof. Nouara Yahi et al. published in The Journal of Infection[10] that warns of the potential for current COVID vaccines to facilitate ADE (antibody-dependent-enhancement[11]) in vaccinated individuals challenged with the Delta variant, potentially worsening disease outcomes in those to whom COVID would not normally pose a threat without vaccine intervention (e.g., the young and healthy).

As the university has unfortunately shown itself to be unwilling to engage with us on these issues, we feel that our best alternative is to make these letters open to the public in hopes of drawing wider attention to our concerns about U of T’s mandates and the lack of evidence supporting them. Our first letter of August 6 and this follow-up letter have been published on https://studentsforcovidethics.org/. We have also acquired additional signatories since our August 6 letter; these will be listed separately at the end of this document, following our original letter and the list of original signatories.

Sincerely,

Concerned U of T Student Group

[1] “U of T to require vaccination for high-risk activities, self-declaration of vaccination status” University of Toronto, July 29, 2021. https://www.utoronto.ca/news/u-t-require-vaccination-high-risk-activities-self-declaration-vaccination-status. Accessed 18 August 2021.

[2] “‘The public health evidence is clear’: Salvatore Spadafora on U of T’s vaccine requirement” University of Toronto, August 11, 2021. https://www.utoronto.ca/news/public-health-evidence-clear-salvatore-spadafora-u-t-s-vaccine-requirement. Accessed 18 August 2021.

[3] Brown, Catherine M et al. “Outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 Infections, Including COVID-19 Vaccine Breakthrough Infections, Associated with Large Public Gatherings — Barnstable County, Massachusetts.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2021;70:1059–1062, doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7031e2.

[4] Public Health England. SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and variants under investigation in EnglandTechnical Briefing 20. (Online) August 6, 2021. Available: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1009243/Technical_Briefing_20.pdf. Accessed 18 August 2021.

[5] Our World in Data. “Share of people vaccinated against COVID-19, Aug 16, 2021.” (Online) August 16, 2021. https://ourworldindata.org/explorers/coronavirus-data-explorer?zoomToSelection=true&facet=none&pickerSort=asc&pickerMetric=total_vaccinations_per_hundred&Metric=People+vaccinated+%28by+dose%29&Interval=7-day+rolling+average&Relative+to+Population=true&Align+outbreaks=false&country=ISL~MLT~GIB (Accessed 18 August 2021)

[6] Our World in Data. “Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people.” (Online) August 17, 2021. https://ourworldindata.org/explorers/coronavirus-data-explorer?zoomToSelection=true&facet=none&pickerSort=asc&pickerMetric=total_vaccinations_per_hundred&Metric=Confirmed+cases&Interval=7-day+rolling+average&Relative+to+Population=true&Align+outbreaks=false&country=ISL~MLT~GIB (Accessed 18 August 2021)

[7] Worldometers.info. “Gibraltar COVID: Cases and Deaths.” (Online) August 18, 2021. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/gibraltar/ Accessed 18 August 2021.

[8] “Could the Delta variant mean another season of online learning?” Fox News. August 5, 2021. https://video.foxnews.com/v/6266668811001, (02:35). Accessed 18 August 2021.

[9] Diaz, G.A. et al. “Myocarditis and Pericarditis After Vaccination for COVID-19.” JAMA. Published online August 04, 2021. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.13443.

[10] Yahi, Nouara et al. “Infection-enhancing anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies recognize both the original Wuhan/D614G strain and Delta variants. A potential risk for mass vaccination?” The Journal of Infection, S0163–4453(21)00392–3. 9 Aug. 2021, doi:10.1016/j.jinf.2021.08.010

[11] Tirado, Sol M Cancel et al. “Antibody-dependent enhancement of virus infection and disease.” Viral immunology vol. 16,1 (2003): 69–86. doi:10.1089/088282403763635465.

August 20, 2021

From: Prof. Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Cc: Prof. Meric Gertler, President
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Beth Ali, Exec. Director of Athletics & Physical Activity
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Ryan McClelland, Associate Dean
University of Toronto Faculty of Music
[email protected]

To: Benjamin Gabbay
Concerned U of T Student Group
[email protected]

Prof. Trevor Young, Acting Vice-President & Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Ellie Hisama, Dean
University of Toronto Faculty of Music
[email protected]

RE: Follow-up: Joint letter from concerned U of T students

Dear Benjamin,

Thank you for your letter.  I am writing on behalf of the President, the Acting Provost and the other UofT officials who were cc:ed on your email.

The University takes a different view regarding the points that you have made.  The University, in consultation with medical and science experts, is of the unequivocal view that vaccines are both effective and safe and that vaccination against COVID-19 is the single most effective public heath measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted post-secondary campuses and their surrounding communities. The risk of COVID-19 has been highlighted by outbreaks among post-secondary students, both on and off campus. On August 17, 2021, the Chief Medical Officer of Health indicated that vaccination against COVID-19 will be required for all participants of in-person activities on post-secondary campuses, with the rare exception of those individuals who cannot be vaccinated due to permitted exemptions (medical or protected grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code).   As such, the University’s policies and guidelines will align with the most recent provincial directives.

Sincerely,

Sandy Welsh
Vice-Provost, Students

August 22, 2021

From: Concerned University of Toronto Student Group
Represented by Benjamin Gabbay
[email protected]

Cc: Prof. Meric Gertler, President
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Beth Ali, Exec. Director of Athletics & Physical Activity
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Ryan McClelland, Associate Dean
University of Toronto Faculty of Music
[email protected]

To: Prof. Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Trevor Young, Acting Vice-President & Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Ellie Hisama, Dean
University of Toronto Faculty of Music
[email protected]

Re: Follow-up: Joint letter from concerned U of T students

Dear Vice-Provost Welsh,

Thank you for your reply.

It is precisely the university’s reliance on “views”—in place of transparent scientific debate—that compels my colleagues and me to bring forward our concerns. One of the tenets taught in higher education is the importance of academic debate and enquiry, whereby we have always been encouraged to question consensus and follow those questions wherever they lead us. We do not claim to be experts; we approached this issue the same way we do any of our academic activities, leaning on the observations of experts to form a comprehensive conclusion. As you say you have done the same, we would expect the results to be presented with the same academic rigour that we have applied in presenting our concerns. It appears to us that every assertion made by the university since July 29 on this issue has been referenced only with other assertions by higher levels of administration (e.g., the University Health Network, the Ontario Council of Universities) without the presentation of transparent scientific rationale, as if these statements were simply to be taken at face value.

This is why we wrote our letter: it concerns us deeply that the violation of students’ privacy and bodily autonomy is apparently based on a “view” that the university has taken and seems unwilling to debate. It is inevitable that experts will disagree—the university’s scientists may disagree with the experts we have cited, and they have every right to do so—but at a minimum, we would expect them to provide the data and rationale that led them to reach those conclusions, rather than positing a “view” or deferring to the unilateral declaration of a higher authority. If the university cannot do this, regardless of who that higher authority may be, it has, in the words of Dr. Martin Kulldorff and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, “replaced trust with coercion and authoritarianism,” and has failed to stand for the values it purports to teach.

Sincerely,
Benjamin Gabbay
on behalf of Concerned U of T Students

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